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【9 October】UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore visited a junior high school in Tokyo to join SDGs class

TOKYO, Japan, 9 October 2018 – A group of more than 30 Japanese junior high school students were anxiously waiting for a much-anticipated visit on 9 October by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. She was scheduled to give a talk and watch their class on the SDGs.

For her, it was the first visit to Japan as the head of UNICEF after assuming the post in January 2018. This visit of hers to the SDGs class at Akatsuka Daini Junior High School in Itabashi Ward, northern part of Tokyo, coincided with the launch of a new learning material about SDGs developed by the Japan Committee for UNICEF and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The move comes as Japan aims to raise awareness about the global goals among young generation. The new material is to be distributed to all the junior high schools nationwide between October and November 2018.

Her presence at the junior high school, therefore, lent a particular significance to Japan’s educational initiatives regarding the SDGs, as evidenced by a warm welcome from Hon. Hakubun Shimomura, the former Minister of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

At the outset of the class, Fore started off her address with a Japanese word “Arigato” and expressed appreciation for Mr. Hidemi Nakano, a school social studies teacher devoted to developing the SDGs learning material for junior high school students. “Your class is the very first class to see the new learning materials on the sustainable development goals,” she told the students.

“It reminds me of what I would like to do most as the director of UNICEF,” she said, touching upon the role of the organisation in extending various forms of assistance to young people around the world to promote their rights and to empower them. “At UNICEF, we believe that every child or young person can contribute to the world,” she said, adding that “We want to forge this future with you. We want to co-create and co-design with all of you.” The students fixed their gaze upon her while trying to hang onto every word she spoke.

As a member of the working group for developing the new learning material, Mr. Nakano was deeply involved in the designing and compilation of the material titled A Sustainable World that We Build – with SDGs as a ‘navigation system.’ In December 2016, the Japanese government decided on its SDGs Implementation Guiding Principles which included the promotion of SDGs learning in school. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, tasked with coordinating government initiatives on SDGs implementation, approached the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) for co-creation of the learning material on the global goals. The ministry and JCU spent a year and a half holding a number of meetings involving school teachers, experts, and government officials, developing the draft material, field-testing it, and having it verified by all relevant ministries.

“What is most important is to help students to feel that this is relevant to them and to take action on their own (through learning about the SDGs with this material). We thought about how we can come up with a way to encourage such an attitude in a natural way” Mr. Nakano said of the challenges the working group faced in the development process. “We thought long and hard about how to make a practical material,” he said.

For UNICEF, the SDGs education for junior high school students can tie in with the organisation’s new initiative, Generation Unlimited, an educational and training partnership aimed at ensuring that every young person is in education, learning, training or employment by 2030. This initiative calls for young people to play a positive role in their societies.

At the class, after Mr. Nakano’s brief instructions, the students each chose three sustainable development goals out of 17 that they would like to focus on. Then, they split into pairs and used tablet computers to do more research on the JCU’s dedicated website for students’ SDGs learning. Finally, he told the students to form groups of four, exchange ideas with classmates about their own choices of goals, as well as global challenges they want to seek solutions for.

Executive Director walked around in the classroom to listen in on what the students had to say in group discussions. One female student said that good jobs and economic growth under the Goal 8 were important, for jobs were necessary to help drive economic growth and enable people to put their abilities to use. In response, Fore nodded to her and said, “Good points to make.” The student smiled and answered, “Thank you.”

In another group, students raised the need for quality education under the Goal 4, referring to a dire situation in Ghana, Western Africa, where children had to work to support their families and many of those children are out of school. The students argued for building more amicable country-to-country relationships so as to facilitate the provision of assistance and help reduce inequalities both within a nation and between many countries as aimed for by Goal 10. That, they said, would be conducive to deepening engagements between countries for the sake of greater mutual support.

After the class, one of the students, Yuta, said that he learned about a wide range of issues through the SDGs learning. “What we can do first is to let other people know about these things. That’s how I would like to make a difference,” he said.

Although Fore’s visit was brief due to her tight schedule, she left a mark in the hearts of many students. Inspired by the class, another student, Hina, said “An opportunity to learn about UNICEF activities through a class like this will lead to reducing inequalities between Japan and the rest of the world. I hope we will be able to create a world in which all people can lead safe and comfortable lives.”

SDGs learning material for junior high school students (Japanese)

【10月10日】日本ユニセフ協会・外務省制作SDGs副教材 フォア事務局長がお披露目 都内中学校の報道公開授業に参加

 

 

 
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